Some of the almond blossom are out early this year. The almond trees don’t normally sprout their barely pink candy floss blooms for another few weeks at least but the mild weather we had over Christmas has tricked them into thinking it is nearly Spring.
They are so pretty and decorate a fairly bare landscape at this time of year. Not much is happening on the vegetable front either at the moment where I run with the dog. There are few lettuces, cabbages and some chard. What there are plenty of however, at this time of year, is oranges. They are everywhere, like the bright sunny reminders of where we live. We live in Andalucia, land of oranges and mandarins.
Oranges and almonds are a classic combination that complement each other perfectly in cooking. I have used them together before in this Mandarin Almond Drizzle Cake, these deliciously light Ricciarelli Biscuits and in this Butterbean Tagine with Quinoa & Halloumi
These organic mandarins were 60 cents a kilo at the market consequently I have quite a few. So apart from using a lot to decorate the lounge and kitchen over the holidays and snacking on them in the afternoon, I needed to find a recipe that used a few of them up.
My friend Caroline also has a tree on her terrace heavy with navel oranges so that every time I see her I leave with a huge carrier bag full of them. They are brilliant for juicing, The Washer Up has two, freshly squeezed, with his breakfast every morning, but I still needed to use some, to make room in the kitchen apart from anything else.
Tarta de Santiago is a deliciously moist almond cake from Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Pilgrims and tourists visit the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the relics of the apostle Saint James (Santiago in Spanish) are thought to be buried. They also probably all eat some of this cake as it is in every bakery window, dusted with icing sugar and decorated with the shape of the cross of the Order of Saint James.
This was one of the first desserts on our menu at the restaurant when we opened it 11 years ago. The bakery down the hill made it for us, this was before The Washer Up had perfected his pastry skills and made all of them himself. We served it warm with a hot cherry sauce which was also gorgeous if you can get hold of some cherries where you are.
This version of the cake is beautifully light because the egg whites are whisked (to a meringue basically) and folded in separately. It is gluten-free as it is made using ground almonds and dairy-free because there is no butter or milk added. The mandarin orange compote is made with honey instead of sugar and can be served warm or cold.
Tarta de Santiago with Mandarin Orange Compote
Serves 8, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free. Adapted from Time for a little Something
6 large eggs, separated
- a pinch of salt
- 200 g caster sugar
- large pinch of ground cinnamon
- the zest of one orange
- a few drops of almond extract
- 250 g ground almonds
- icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180°. Prepare a 24-cm springform cake tin by roughly cutting a circle of baking paper a little bigger than the loose base of the tin, and put this over the base before clipping the tin back together. Rub the base & sides with a little oil.
Whisk the egg whites and salt in a large clean bowl until soft peaks form. Then whisk in half the caster sugar (100 g) a tablespoon at a time, until you have a glossy meringue texture.
In another large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the caster sugar, orange zest, almond extract and cinnamon. Beat until thick and increased in volume.
Now fold in just a little of the egg white mixture into the yolks to loosen it then fold in the rest gently, taking care not to deflate the mix too much. Then gently fold the ground almonds in too.
Spoon/pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes. Check it after about 30-35 minutes – if it is browning too quickly, put a piece of baking paper over the top of the tin so the cake can still cook but not brown any more. Once the cake is golden and springy, remove it from the oven and let it cool in its tin for 10 minutes
When it is cool, run a knife around the edge, turn it out onto a plate, remove the baking paper from the base and serve upside down. Dust it with icing sugar just before serving. You can make a template of the traditional St James Cross/Sword and put that in the middle of the whole tart before dusting with icing sugar which is how it is usually served.
Or I used a cross from a necklace that my dad bought me and used that on each piece of cake!! Thanks Dad xx
Mandarin Orange Compote
- 500 g oranges & mandarins
- 4 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
Cut the top and bottom off the oranges then cut down around following the line of the peel to remove it all.
Using a sharp knife, cut in-between each membrane to remove a segment of orange into a small sauce pan. When all segments are removed squeeze juice into pan too.
Peel mandarins and remove as much white pith as possible and any pips.
Put all ingredients in small pan, bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 mins or until soft and jammy. Puree, taste and adjust honey to your liking. Leave to cool or serve warm with the cake.
This cake can be served as a lovely light dessert perfect for this time of year or with your afternoon tea.
Have a Lovely Weekend! Feliz Reyes!